The published information about this unit has a lot of gaps in it and this article fills only a few. The best source that I know of is an article by Peter Petrick in Jet & Prop magazine, issue 4/99. Petrick was able to use the Flugbuch of a former pilot, Ofw. Keilig as well as a number of photographs from the same source.
More photographs can be found in Bo Widfeldt’s Luftwaffe in Sweden 1939–45 (Monogram Aviation Publications, Boylston MA, 1983, ISBN 9780914144281) with a short narrative of the arrival of a single Ju 88 G in Sweden at the war’s end.
On the web, the Special interest Group Luftwaffe in Norway has a page with a brief chronology of known events in the history of the unit. This includes a list of known victories, losses and pilots as well as some strength figures. There is a lot of information there — some Petrick had, some he didn’t — but no sources are given and so I have been reluctant to incorporate all of it into this article (although it would fill some of the holes in my own chronology). Anyway check out their site, it has some very interesting things on it.
My own main sources are the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg; Luftwaffe aircraft loss reports from the Imperial War Museum, London; and deciphered German signals, translated daily situation reports and British Air Operations Watch reports at the National Archives, Kew, London. These sources agree that the unit had its origins in a night fighting detachment formed from crews of 13.(Z)/JG 5. After conversion training at the end of 1943, Nachtjagdstaffel Finnland was constituted in January 1944.
Since this article first appeared I have received invaluable help from Marcel Hogenhuis and Rod McKenzie. Rod had further information from Keilig’s Flugbuch and pointed me to some ULTRA messages I’d missed and which I was able to check out soon after at the National Archives (and I found a couple more myself). In 2017 he generously forwarded more information from Freiburg about the unit's strength and re-equipment. Marcel was able to tell me that the Staffel’s lone He 219 had originally served with I./NJG 1 and that Hüschens had arrived there to collect it on 29 June 1944. The late Michaël (SES) Svejgaard pointed me to his own website's page on flights between Britain and Sweden (linked later on this page). Russell Guest supplied the information about the Stirling shot down on 28 December 1944 and Theo Boiten identified the Lancaster that fell on the 31st of that month.
On 4 March 1944, Hptm. Werner Hüschens was posted from II./NJG 2 to Luftflotte 5 along with night fighter controller Oberst Bongartz and three signals officers.
The Luftflotte was still talking on the 15th of the “setting up” of the Staffel and two days after that one crew from 13.(Z)/JG 5, Fw. Fiedler and Uffz. Johnson, was ordered to report to Fliegerführer Arktis in Kirkenes for night fighting. Both the Fliegerführer and Kommandierender General der Deutschen Luftwaffe in Finnland were ordered to report to Luftflotte 5 the names and ranks of all the 13.(Z)/JG 5 crews detached to their areas. British Intelligence learned that Nachtjagdstaffel Finnland was at Nautsi on 8 April, when a personal message was sent there for Hüschens from his old Gruppe at Quackenbrück. On the 23rd the Luftwaffe’s Commanding General in Finland was told by the Chief Quartermaster that it was not currently possible to allocate the Nachtjagdstaffel a code of its own and instead the new unit was to use 13.(Z)/JG 5’s spare codes: the range 1B+PX to 1B+ZX. Quite why a new code could not be found from among the many unused combinations was not explained but the British did note that the decision would restrict 13.(Z)/JG 5 to a strength of 12 aircraft. Petrick’s article says that the Staffel lost Bf 110 G-4, W.Nr. 720264 west of Rosklide, Denmark on 19 June along with Uffz. Goy and his crew. Although he gives the aircraft’s code as 1B+ZK, this is almost certanly a misprint for 1B+ZX.
It seems that for its first several months, the Staffel was solely equipped with the Bf 110 but Petrick says that training on the Ju 88 began during June 1944. On 8 July Fliegerführer 4 directed that crews of Nachtjagdtaffel Finnland with 1.(F)/22 who were retrained on the Ju 88 should be detached to 1.(F)/120 at Stavanger. They were to be given an hour of two of flying time so that their hosts could pass on experience gained with the BMW 801. For some reason the arrival of the night fighter crews and the start and end of their training were to be reported by SAGr. 131. On the 18th, the Luftwaffe Führungsstab formally established Nachtjagdstaffel Finnland for a period of six months and allocated “B4” as its unit identification code.
On 31 July, a Ju 88 and an He 219 of the Nachtjagdtaffel arrived in Nautsi. On 9 August OKL was advised of recent changes of base in Norway and Finland, including the Staffel’s move from Lista (known to the Germans as Lister) to Nautsi, while on the 24th the Navy warned that an He 219 would be over the Kirkenes area from mid-afternoon. Two aircraft were damaged during September, on the 5th and 22nd, neither of them on operations and with handling errors given as the cause. On 27 September, the Kriegsmarine was discussing an urgent request from the Admiral commanding in the Skaggerak for the transfer of “the strongest night fighter forces” to Denmark to counter Allied efforts to mine the entrances to the Baltic. OKL had duly brought strengths in Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein up to two Gruppen in Grove, one in Westerland, one in Schleswig and another in Lübeck. On top of this a “reinforced night fighter Staffel” was moving from the Reich to Lister in Norway.
On 12 October the Allies learned, apparently from the Y-Service, that three Ju 88s were to leave Bodø at 13.00 GMT for Trondheim-Hommelvik. In fact Bodø reported the departure of seven machines — three Ju 88s and four Bf 110s “of the ‘A’ Staffel of an unknown unit (with marking B4)” — from 14.10 hrs. , bound for Trondheim-Vaernes. Bletchely Park's Operational Watch speculated that the movements might be connected to “considerable activity by Ju 88’s in N. Norway” the day before. It was thought that these machines might belong either to “a unit not previously identified in Norway or to “what used to be 11./ZG 26” and that they might be engaged in covering shipping following an Army request for stronger escorts for convoys evacuating troops from Northern Norway. On the 13th, the same seven aircraft returned to Bodø, monitoring disclosing that they were three Ju 88s and four Bf 110s. The RAF thought that they might be “a heavy fighter Staffel specialising in convoy escort” since such protection had recently been requested in Northern Norway.
continued on next page …
This obviously isn't anything approaching a complete history of the unit but it does, I hope, add some new things to what has been published so far.
© Nick Beale 2010–23